How To Build an Effective Remote Team in 6 Steps (With Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated September 14, 2022 | Published August 11, 2021

Updated September 14, 2022

Published August 11, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

There is an increasing number of job functions employees can perform outside of the office, which means more businesses are making use of team models that include remote workers. Some work teams are a hybrid of traditional and remote employees, while others consist totally of employees who work off-site. While there are challenges to working remotely, you might find that the benefits outweigh those challenges. 

In this article, we consider what remote teams are, how to build an effective remote team, tips for improving team-building and communication remotely, the benefits of remote teams and the industries that are conducive to them.

What is a remote team?

A remote team is a business unit consisting of employees who work in different geographical locations under the same manager. Here are a few remote team structure options:

  • All team members might work from home.

  • Team members may work from a variety of locations, depending on the type of work they do. 

  • Some team members travel to different locations as part of their job and work from wherever they are that day. 

  • Team members work in satellite offices many miles from the main office.

Related: Everything You Should Know About Working From Home

How to build an effective remote team

Here are some steps that might help you build an effective remote team:

1. Consider prospective employees' skills and traits

Certain people adapt better at working remotely than others, so it's a good idea to consider particular skills and traits when you're recruiting for your remote team. Some skills and traits to look for might include:

  • Ability to work independently: You will undoubtedly give your team tasks and projects to perform with little supervision. Each team member should be able to manage their own time well and meet the required deadlines with little need for prompting.

  • Ability to do the work: You may only be able to offer limited training to new remote employees. This means they should already be sufficiently qualified and experienced to understand and perform the tasks you give them.

  • Strong communication skills: Remote teams communicate mostly by text, whether text messaging, instant messaging or email. Because of this, you may want to prioritize communication skills when recruiting for your remote team.

Read more: 9 Helpful Work From Home Skills for Remote Professionals

2. Set reasonable and clear expectations

When managing a remote team, it's important to balance trust and accountability. Team members want to feel like you trust them, and you want assurance that everyone is able to be productive. Setting out clear and reasonable expectations from the beginning can help you accomplish this balance. Examples of expectations you might set include:

  • Specifying whether each employee needs to clock in and out using time-keeping software

  • Setting specific hours for when each team member should be available

  • Establishing goals for the team and each team member

  • Setting up a mechanism for team members to report progress on goals or projects regularly

Related: 12 Best Practices for Leading a Virtual Team (Plus Tips)

3. Establish a regular communication schedule

It's easy to stay in touch with your team when you're in the same office, which helps to build cohesion and a common sense of purpose among your team members. You can achieve that same connectivity with a remote team by:

  • Creating clear expectations for communication

  • Offering easy-to-use communication tools and systems

  • Maintaining a regular and consistent communication schedule

For example, you could set up regular team meetings using conferencing technology. Video conferencing is preferable since that enables you to see body language, which may enhance your team's ability to communicate effectively.

Related: 28 Tips To Help Conduct Your Remote Meetings

4. Purchase appropriate software tools

You can help make a difference to both your team's performance and its sense of unity by providing team members with the software tools they need for communicating and doing their job. This could include:

  • Communication tools: Instead of using generic messaging software, provide your team with communication software designed for remote workgroups. This software often packages together conferencing tools such as virtual whiteboards as well as integrated voice and video chat and file-sharing capabilities.

  • Job-specific tools: Make sure individual team members have the correct tools they need for their work. For example, a programmer might benefit from the appropriate development software for the language they're using while a design professional may require access to a stock photography site, a graphics package and a drawing tablet to help them increase the quality of their work.

Related: 13 Small Business Communication Tools and How To Choose One

5. Look for virtual team-building opportunities

Getting to know team members socially can be an effective way to build team cohesion. When your team members work in diverse remote locations, you may have to find creative ways to develop those interpersonal team relationships. Here are a few methods to consider:

  • Spend the first five or 10 minutes of a team meeting talking about the previous weekend or if anyone has watched any good movies or shows recently. 

  • Send small care packages to each team member and have everyone open their packages together during a video conference call.

  • Encourage communication with a weekly prompt that team members can respond to and around which they can begin discussions.

Read more: What Is the Purpose of Team Building?

6. Celebrate milestones

You can help your remote team to feel connected by acknowledging and celebrating milestones, both for the team and for individual team members. Perhaps celebrate the completion of a project with a fun virtual activity or by having donuts or pizza delivered to each team member. You could also send team members cards on their birthdays or hiring anniversaries and draw attention to these significant occasions during team meetings.

Related: Managing Virtual Teams: Benefits and 10 Tips for Doing It

Tips for remote team-building and communication

Team-building and communication are both vital elements to a successful remote strategy. Here are some tips you can use to improve these processes within your team:

Schedule recurring check-in meetings

Consider also setting up regular meetings with each individual team member so that you can track their progress on projects and provide opportunities for them to discuss issues or concerns. Specifically, you might:

  • Provide company updates

  • Review the guidelines for new projects

  • Review recently completed projects

  • Answer questions about ongoing work

You can also schedule team-wide check-in meetings to provide your team members a chance to talk together on a regular basis. This can be helpful for both team-wide communication and team-building. 

Related: 6 Reasons for Conducting Meetings and Why They're Important

Prioritize team communication 

Responding to emails, text messages or calls from your team members in a timely manner can be a great way to streamline internal communication. This also helps team members know that they're important to you and to the team, which can be good for morale as well as productivity. You can also help prioritize communication with your team by explaining the best ways to contact your for different needs. 

Related: What Is Effective Communication? (With Benefits and Tips)

Host fun online events

An elaborate team-building activity can help take team connectivity to the next level. Consider organizing an event like the following:

  • Visual games: You can play online versions of popular drawing games such as hangman, ticktacktoe or charades using a virtual whiteboard. 

  • Yoga: Consider hosting a group yoga session by playing a video that each team member can stream and follow. 

  • Third-party events: You could also investigate companies that specialize in online office games for remote business teams, such as trivia quizzes and scavenger hunts.

Read more: 6 Ideas for Team Building Activities

Encourage feedback

Encouraging feedback can be a great way to facilitate honest communication and help team members feel valued and respected at work. You might institute the following feedback strategies or tools:

  • Anonymous online feedback surveys

  • Suggestion box

  • Regular meeting that focuses on feedback and internal process improvement 

Related: How To Give Feedback at Work (With Examples)

Benefits of an effective remote team

There are numerous benefits to having an effective remote team, including:

  • Increased productivity: When your team members can choose their work environment and, perhaps, their work hours, they're usually able to be more productive. Some may also find they can get more work done when they're away from all the distractions of the office.

  • More efficient, purposeful meetings: Remote team meetings tend to be scheduled for a specific time frame, which can help focus those meetings on accomplishing a particular purpose. Working remotely also means there are fewer opportunities for impromptu meetings that can disrupt your routine.

  • Better employee retention: Allowing team members to work remotely can give them the flexibility to continue working for you, even if they move or experience other life events that might normally cause them to leave. The ability to work remotely is also an attractive job benefit that your team members may not want to give up easily.

  • Increased employee engagement: When your team members are engaged, they enjoy their work and put a lot of time and energy into performing well. Being able to work remotely can improve employee engagement by allowing team members to work in a comfortable environment and balance their work and home lives more effectively.

  • Reduced company costs: Having a remote team can reduce company costs by not having to pay for office space, office supplies, furniture and other expenditures associated with a traditional work environment. It's also possible some team members may be willing to forego a larger salary for the benefit of working from home.

Related: 10 Examples of Virtual Teams and Their Benefits

Which industries are conducive to remote teams?

Some industries are more conducive to remote teams than others. Among them are:

  • Technology: There are many jobs within IT and technology that professionals can do outside of the office. For this reason, many technology companies have been allowing employees to work remotely for a long time. 

  • Finance: Many jobs within finance and accounting can be remote, especially if you're managing accounts for clients in different locations. You might be communicating with them by phone and email, which you can do as easily from home as from an office.

  • Education: A number of schools already offer online classes that are taught through some form of video chat, providing excellent opportunities for teachers who want to work remotely. You can also offer training classes online as part of a training team in areas of expertise such as business, technology or language skills to students anywhere in the world.

  • Sales: While there may always be a place for salespeople who give in-person demonstrations and presentations, many sales jobs can be performed over the phone and using email. This makes them ideal for people who would like to work as part of a remote sales team.

  • Administration: Professionals can perform many administrative tasks remotely, such as scheduling meetings or events, creating documentation and managing projects. You may, therefore, be able to find remote work as part of a team that needs an administrative specialist.

Explore more articles